Two key supporters of U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry landed an oil and gas exploration deal with the Ukrainian government a month after the former Texas governor recommended one of them as an advisor to the country, the Associated Press is reporting.
Longtime Perry backer Michael Bleyzer was one of four people the secretary recommended early this year to Ukraine’s newly elected president as potential advisors on energy issues, according to AP’s investigation.
A week later, Bleyzer and business partner Alex Cranberg submitted a bid for a “potentially lucrative” pact to drill in a petroleum field controlled by the Ukrainian government. In 2011, Perry appointed Cranberg, a major Republican donor, to serve on the University of Texas System’s board of regents.
Representatives for both Bleyzer and Cranberg told the AP they won the contract in competitive bidding, adding that Perry didn’t intervene on their behalf. The Energy Department said the secretary advocates for the U.S. energy industry but not for individual companies.
However, Jessica Tillipman, who teaches anti-corruption law at George Washington University, told the wire service that the transaction, while probably not illegal, doesn’t pass the smell test.
“My gut says it’s no crime,” the professor said. “It’s just icky.”
The revelation appears to come at an inopportune time for Perry.
House committees have subpoenaed documents from the energy secretary as part of the impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump’s dealings with Ukraine. Amid the probe, Perry announced he’ll be leaving his cabinet position by the end of the year.
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